Kavita Ramdas ’85 Named Commencement Speaker

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 15:15

Social justice advocate and leader Kavita N. Ramdas ’85 will give the 2013 commencement address and receive an honorary degree when Mount Holyoke College celebrates its 176th commencement on Sunday, May 19. Honorary degrees will also be presented to distinguished nutrition expert Joanne Lupton ’66, award-winning filmmaker Mary Mazzio ’83, and former White House deputy chief of staff Mona Sutphen ’89—marking the first time in the College’s 175-year history that all of its commencement honorary degree recipients will be alumnae.

Ramdas, who will receive an honorary doctorate in humane letters, has spent her career working on the cause of gender equality in effort to ensure human rights and dignity for all. She is presently the Ford Foundation’s representative in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, where she oversees the foundation’s grant making in the region. Her work focuses on issues of equity, inclusion, economic fairness, freedom of expression, human rights, sexuality and reproductive health and rights, transparency and accountable governance, and sustainable development. She also works to leverage relationships with government, civil society, and the private sector to advance social justice.

“Kavita Ramdas is an inspiring and visionary leader and an extraordinary champion of social justice, liberal learning, and women's rights,” said MHC President Lynn Pasquerella. “We are so proud to be able to confer an honorary degree upon Kavita and three other Mount Holyoke alumnae, Joanne, Mary, and Mona, as we celebrate 175 years of women of influence.”

Before joining the Ford Foundation in 2012, Ramdas served as the founder and first executive director of Stanford University’s Program on Social Entrepreneurship (PSE), which brings global leaders in social innovation to share their expertise as practitioners with the academic community. From 1996 to 2010, Ramdas served as president and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, which grew under her leadership to become the world's largest public foundation for women's rights. During her tenure, the fund's assets increased from $3 million to $21 million—giving women in more than 170 countries access to financial capital that fueled innovation and change. In addition, she has broadly promoted women's human rights, social justice philanthropy, and international development through her membership and professional affiliations on the boards and advisory councils of a diverse array of organizations. She currently chairs the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council for India and serves as a board member at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Ramdas holds a master’s degree in public affairs with a focus on international development from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. She received a bachelor’s degree in politics and international relations from Mount Holyoke and academic training from Delhi University. She is fluent in Hindi/Urdu, English, and German and is conversant in Tamil, Spanish, and French.

Joanne Lupton ’66 will be awarded an honorary doctorate of science. She is a Distinguished Professor, Regents Professor, University Faculty Fellow, and holder of the William W. Allen Endowed Chair in Nutrition at Texas A&M University, where she was also the founding chair of the nutrition faculty. Until 2008 Lupton was the team leader for the National Space Biomedical Research Institute’s Nutrition, Physical Fitness, and Rehabilitation Team, which aims to optimize function and the health of astronauts through nutrition and physical activity. She is a specialist on the effect of diet on the gastrointestinal tract, with a primary focus on fat, fiber, and colon cancer. She is principal investigator for the Ph.D. training grant in space life sciences, and she has also reviewed grants for NASA.

Lupton is the U.S. nutrition representative for the International Artificial Gravity Project, was an external advisor in formulating the nutrition standards for space flight for NASA, and is a member of the International Academy of Astronautics. In recognition of her contributions to the National Academy of Sciences, she was made a Lifetime Associate in 2002.

Lupton has mentored more than 50 graduate students and received the ASNS/Dannon Institute Mentoring Award. She has also received several teaching awards, as well as the Vice Chancellor's Award for Research and the Distinguished Achievement Award for Research, both at Texas A&M. After graduating from Mount Holyoke College, she earned her Ph.D. in nutrition from the University of California, Davis.

Mary Mazzio ’83, an award-winning documentary film director, Olympian, and former law firm partner, is the founder and CEO of 50 Eggs, Inc., an independent film production company. She will be awarded a doctorate of humane letters.

Mazzio wrote, directed, and produced the award-winning films TEN9EIGHT, A Hero for Daisy, Lemonade Stories, and Apple Pie, as well as we are BlackRock. She has recently completed The Apple Pushers, narrated by Academy Award nominee Edward Norton, funded by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, and picked up for distribution by Oscilloscope. She is currently wrapping up Contrarian, a film about legendary stock investor John Templeton.

Mazzio, a 1992 Olympic athlete in rowing, is a graduate of Mount Holyoke and Georgetown Law School. She is a recipient of numerous honors and has served on various boards of directors. She has also been the keynote speaker at numerous corporate and educational events across the nation, including the State of Nebraska Convention on Economic Development, and conventions of the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, the Women’s Sports Foundation, the National Association of Collegiate Women’s Athletic Administrators, NCAA Title IX, and many others.

Mazzio and her work have been featured in numerous national publications, television, and radio, and her story has been chronicled in the books One Person, Multiple Careers and 168 Hours.

Mona Sutphen ’89, who will receive a doctorate in humane letters, is a managing director at UBS AG, covering geopolitical and policy risk, as well as a member of President Barack Obama's Intelligence Advisory Board. She served as White House deputy chief of staff for policy for Obama from 2009 until February 2011, advising him on a range of issues, including regulatory matters, economic policy, and strategic plans.

Sutphen also served as a foreign policy advisor on the 2008 presidential campaign and in the Obama-Biden transition. From 2001 to 2008, she was managing director at Stonebridge International, a global strategy consulting firm advising multinational corporations and financial institutions. Prior to that, Sutphen was a U.S. Foreign Service Officer (1991-2000), serving in the Clinton administration on the staff of the National Security Council, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, the Office of the High Representative in Sarajevo, the State Department, and at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok.

Sutphen is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on its International Affairs Fellowship selection committee. In addition, she serves on the Boards of Human Rights First and the UBS Savings and Investment Plan. She is also a coauthor of The Next American Century: How the U.S. Can Thrive as Other Powers Rise (Simon & Schuster, 2008).  After graduating from Mount Holyoke, Sutphen earned a master’s degree from the London School of Economics.